Mole Madness: To Hell with These Hills!

Mole Madness: To Hell with These Hills!

 By Sarah Moore

For many gardeners this is one of the most pleasant times of year. The vegetables are in and thriving: pumpkins and melons sprouting, tomatoes turning red and gold, eggplants ripening to purple perfection. Lovely gladiolas wave in the wind with long-necked elegance while clematis and hydrangea flaunt gorgeous blooms along hedges and over fences. Even in the rainy Northwest the sun is shining and the breeze is warm.

 

Only one thing disturbs this summer bounty, such a thing as to keep the committed gardener up at night, sweating with distress and wondering just what is going on out there. Slowly the midnight hours tick by, and when we wake, it is with the dread certainty that we will find that which we fear most: a brand-spanking-new pile of dirt where formerly lived a happy primrose or pristine stretch of lawn. Proof positive that our never-welcome visitors have returned: moles.

 

On the upside, I should mention that moles do not eat plants, and therefore aren’t like slugs, rabbits, deer or other garden-destroyers that do so for the sake of a good meal. No, moles are merely passing through – or else setting up permanent residence, which is worse. Not only do their unattractive hills ruin a good landscape, but underground tunnel networks can make walking dangerous as well.

 

So what’s a gardener to do? Unfortunately little deters the buggers aside from poison, which I flatly refuse to use – as should anyone who has small children or hopes to label their garden “organic.” Despite my husband’s tendency to stamp down hills with terminal prejudice, this is also ineffective: they’ll simply come up somewhere else. In the summer, moles live deeper underground to be nearer moisture-loving worms (a main food source), and are therefore even harder to root out.

 

But take heart: there are a few tricks that really do work. You can trap if you wish, but fortunately there are much more humane approaches. One is to use an ultrasonic device, which supposedly imitates the sounds moles make, therefore convincing your resident or family that the territory is taken. The drawback: humans can hear the sound too, if close enough, and it isn’t pretty.

 

Another plan, and less offensive to the gardener’s ear, is to spread repellant. While it doesn’t harm the moles, it does change the taste and smell of their food, which they don’t like. Instead of staying and paying the price in spoiled grub, they’ll usually move on in search of greener pastures. Both this technique and the one above work best if first applied to half of the yard, then the other half one week later. (In the case of the ultrasonic device, this simply means moving it.) This creates the effect of a moving barrier, driving the animals before the unwanted sound or smell.

 

Whatever you do, endeavor to be scientific about it: try one solution at a time, and take note of the results. Unfortunately, even drastic reactions like poison are rarely

effective for good, so knowing what works and what doesn’t in your yard is a sound approach. But if you take time to be deliberate, soon enough you’ll have a mole-free yard. Then you can go back to eating your tomatoes and admiring your gladiolas.

Emerald contributor since March 2012

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